24 Nov 2021

Forum debates challenges and opportunities in sustainable operations to fight food waste

It is estimated that about 14% of the food produced in the world is lost before it reaches retail outlets, while an additional 17% of the food available for consumers is wasted, according to recent data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), both of which lead efforts to eradicate hunger and fight poverty. Due to the complex nature of food supply, proposing actions to reduce food waste is a big challenge for researchers and practitioners alike. This debate is present in the special edition of RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas (Journal of Business Management) with articles in the forum organized by guest editors Luciana Marques Vieira (FGV EAESP, Brazil), Marcia Dutra de Barcellos (UFRGS, Brazil), Gustavo Porpino de Araujo (Embrapa, Brazil), Mattias Eriksson (SLU, Sweden), Manoj Dora (Brunel University, UK) and Daniele Eckert Matzembacher (UFRGS, Brazil).

The editors emphasize that reducing and preventing food waste also meets goals in the UN 2030 Agenda, since its target 12.3 aims to halve food loss and waste in supply chains by 2030. The 2030 Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity which seeks to strengthen universal peace. It lists 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets to eradicate poverty and promote life with dignity for all, within the limits of our planet.


According to the editors, reducing and preventing food waste is important because negative externalities occur throughout the entire lifecycle of food and have an adverse impact on society. They note that there are at least three major impacts: economic, environmental and social. Economically, resources used in production are wasted, such as land, water, labor, energy, etc., and there is loss of profitability. Environmentally, this dynamic leads to unnecessary CO2 emissions and air pollution, caused mainly by food being discarded on landfill sites, or being incinerated, and arable land and the machinery involved in producing and transporting food are unnecessarily used. From a social and ethical standpoint, food loss and waste jeopardize opportunities for combatting food insecurity, since access to food is reduced because of decreased availability, which drives up prices, they explain.

Covid-19 has increased the urgency to fight food waste, especially in terms of redistributing food to those vulnerable people who are affected by pandemics. According to the researchers, the net effect of the pandemic on food waste will depend on how long it lasts, and on the impact it has on the global economy, on agri-food supply chains and households, as well as on the measures that are being taken by local, regional and national authorities and on the global management of the pandemic (Burlea-Schiopoiu et al., 2021). “We believe that this Special Forum, which was created before Covid-19 changed our lives, is an important reading and learning opportunity for all of us as consumers, citizens and researchers”, the editors say.

The articles in the “Food Waste: Challenges and Opportunities in Sustainable Operations” Forum are available at the RAE website: www.fgv.br/rae.